The Denver Nuggets have put their 0-3 start to the season in the rear view mirror and are in the fast lane to success.
Since dropping their first three games out of the gate, the Nuggets are 10-3 and riding a six-game winning streak. They opened a six-game eastern journey with Sunday's 112-98 victory at Toronto and were led by Nate Robinson's 23 points off the bench. Reserves Timofey Mozgov and Darrell Arthur scored 16 and 14 points, respectively, and Mozgov brought down 15 rebounds.
"Well it's been huge," Denver coach Brian Shaw said of his bench. "One thing about our team is that we don't have a superstar and with the exception of Ty Lawson, we never know one night to the next what we're gonna get from each individual player."
The Nuggets had a 72-16 advantage in bench points, while Lawson scored 16 points and top forward Kenneth Faried added 12 and 12 rebounds in a winning effort. Denver has won three in a row on the road, is 4-4 outside of the Rocky Mountains and will also visit Cleveland, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington in its trip through the east.
Denver sank 10-of-23 from beyond the arc and has made eight-or-more 3-pointers in eight straight games to extend the longest streak in franchise history. Robinson finished 5-of-8 from downtown against the Raptors and hit consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to give the Nuggets a comfortable lead. He has scored at least 10 points in seven straight games.
The Nuggets are averaging 104.9 points per game, but are allowing almost that many on defense (102.6).
Brooklyn will hobble into Tuesday's home test with Denver and ended a two-game slide the last time out in Saturday's 97-88 victory at Memphis. Brook Lopez, in his second game since returning from an ankle injury, scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and added nine rebounds.
Joe Johnson and Andray Blatche finished with 26 and 21 points, respectively, for the Nets, who made 9-of-18 3-pointers and shot 46.6 percent. A 16-4 run in the fourth quarter put the Grizzlies away for good.
"I just wanted to come out and be aggressive on both ends of the floor and bring that energy and effort that coach said we didn't have last night," said Johnson, who made 9-of-15 shots and is averaging 20.8 points in his last five games.
The Nets, who rebounded from a 19-point loss against the Rockets on Friday, are still without forward Andrei Kirilenko (back), point guard Deron Williams (ankle) and guard Jason Terry (knee). Tyshawn Taylor made his first start of the season against the Grizzlies in place of Williams and will have a tough task matching up with Lawson.
Paul Pierce did not play at Memphis and will miss two to four weeks because of a fractured finger on his right hand. Pierce was hurt during the first half at Houston and tests revealed a non-displaced fracture of the middle finger on the right hand. He is averaging 12.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 15 games.
Brooklyn will also host New York on its quick homestand, has lost four straight as the host and owns a 2-4 mark at Barclays Center.
The Nets and Nuggets will play twice this season and are scheduled to meet at the Pepsi Center on Feb. 27. They split a pair of matchups a season ago, but Denver has won six of eight in the series.
Denver, though, has lost nine of 12 and 17 of its last 21 at the Nets.
Notes from Niko
Injuries: Deron, AK47, Terry, Pierce OUT for Nets.
Gallo OUT for Nuggets. Faried GTD expected to play.
Nate said some interesting things in an interview, one that he was unfairly targeted by officials for technical fouls (which is funny considering he basically never shuts up at them from the opening tip off till he leaves the court). The other thing was about depth and how they use it, which is a good look at both teams. The Nuggets, they use depth in waves. First five, second five. Steady rotation with players having set roles.
The Nets, they use depth like a shark uses teeth, one falls out, replace that one with the other four. Mix and match, ten different sets of five players even within a game.
Anderson is starting in Pierce's absence. I'd start Teletovic personally. There is clearly something we don't see about him (like with Brooks) because even when he plays well, he's pushed behind the other guys.
Lopez looked good coming back. He is so far and away the Nets best player it's not even close. If he goes down you might as well prepare for next season.
Last 3 Nets coaches records:
It's jewish heritage night so expect Bagelred and Amare in the audience.
Play ball. Nuggets are rolling, and the last few teams which ran have beat the crap out of the Nets, so this is a very good test if the Nets are back at all playing decently or the wins were one-offs. (Note: I don't think a loss is a bad sign, i think a 30 point loss is a bad sign.)